Castle Valley America
Hard Land, Hard-won Home
Publication Year: 2004
This is American history told through the stories of an atypical, for Utah, region. Castle Valley is roughly conterminous with two counties, Carbon and Emery, which together formed a rural, industrial enclave in a mostly desert environment behind the mountain range that borders Utah's principal corridor of settlement. In Castle Valley, coal mining and the railroad attracted diverse, multiethnic communities and a fair share of historic characters, from Butch Cassidy, who stole its largest payroll, to Mother Jones, who helped organize its workers against its mining companies. Among the last major segments of the state to be settled, it was also a generally poor region that stretched the capabilities of people to scratch a living from a harsh landscape.
The people of Castle Valley experienced complex, unusual combinations of both social cohesion and conflict, but they struggled through poverty, labor disputes, major mining disasters, and other challenges to build communities whose stories reflected the historical course of the nation as a whole. In order to convey her subject's both unique and representative qualities, Nancy Taniguchi has written an epic history that is not just local history, but American history written locally.
Nancy J. Taniguchi, who lived for thirteen years in Castle Valley and was previously on the faculty of the College of Eastern Utah in Price, is professor of history at California State University, Stanislaus. She is the author of numerous published articles in mining, legal, women's, western, and Utah history and of one book, Necessary Fraud: Progressive Reform
and Utah Coal.
Published by: Utah State University Press
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Castle Valley is my home. Like thousands of other people who say that, I wasn’t born there. But my children were, and their father, and their grandmother, and assorted aunts, uncles, and cousins. We still have relatives living there, and even though we have been gone for a while, we still come back to visit. ...
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The poet wrote, “No man is an island . . . every man . . . is a part of the main.”1 The same can be said for places, literally and figuratively, and how and when they become connected indelibly shapes their history. Castle Valley remained an uninhabited island in the American West for generations, as more inviting areas were “discovered,” inhabited, and “civilized.” When occupation finally occurred, industrialization followed within a ...
Part I: Castle Valley Corridor
1. Passing Through, 1776–1869
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Americans expected to create civilization in the wilderness; they just felt that they could skip Castle Valley. From the beginning of history, no one really liked the area: not the Utes, not the Spanish, not the Mexicans, nor the mountain men, nor the federal surveyors—not even the pioneers who eventually settled there. When Oliver Huntington penned his views in 1855, ...
2. The Significance of the Frontier, 1870–1882
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What was the significance of a primeval frontier? Frederick Jackson Turner, the seminal western historian, decided the very existence of an American frontier, progressively “civilized,” created our national democracy. He imagined an orderly parade of types striding westward from the Appalachians, bringing “the process of civilization, marching single file ...
3. The Railroad and the Raids, 1882–1890
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Pratt’s legal problems arose from new federal laws, spawned in a new national era. According to historian John Garraty, from 1877–1890 “American civilization underwent a basic transformation.” This change included “greatly expanded reliance by individuals upon group activities” and “Industrialization with its accompanying side effects—speedy transportation and communication, ...
4. Cowboys and Industry, 1890–1899
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Historian Walter Nugent claimed, “The transformation of America from the frontier rural society of the eighteenth and nineteenth century to the metropolitan society of the twentieth was the major change in American history.”1 Castle Valley, too, made this all-American change, but modern industry crowded in side-by-side with vestiges of the old frontier. The area reached ...
Part II: New People, New Ways
5. Industrial Revolution, 1899–1905
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As the twentieth century arrived, America’s Industrial Revolution boomed. According to historian Samuel Hays, all of American history from 1885–1914 was a simple reaction to industrial growth.2 Certainly, Castle Valley fit this model, as coal mining grew in importance. Farmers still struggled to get enough water to raise their crops, and stockmen still tended their flourishing herds ...
6. Moving in Together, 1905–1909
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Industrial America often startled newcomers, who embodied the high tide of American immigration—a total of roughly nine million new arrivals from 1901–1910.2 Many, like the Slovenian Marolt family, had come from green, flower-filled rural districts and had rarely seen a factory or mine. The Marolts settled down in coal-blackened Sunnyside and learned the rhythm of an isolated company town, ...
7. Facing Off, 1910–1919
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World War I, also called the Great War (for its size, not its glory), eventually brought an end to America’s Progressive Era optimism. Before the reform spirit died on bloody, distant battlefields, Castle Valley developed the national hallmarks of progressivism: town-building boosterism; anti-vice crusades in warring newspapers; and, most of all, political reform as commercial rivalry between the railroad mines and independents soon came to ...
8. Roller Coaster, 1920–1929
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For many, the 1920s was a roller coaster ride, some of which felt distinctly uncomfortable. Historian Robert Wiebe claimed that World War I made America “tough and plural . . . [facing the] unfamiliarity of new relationships and the ambiguity of new principles.”2 Everywhere, people felt drawn to new ideas and modern lifestyles ...
Part III Crisis and Community
9. Depression, 1930–1941
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Studs Terkel, famous for his books of collected oral histories, had his own unfocused memories of the 1930s, of his youth. “That there are some who were untouched or, indeed, did rather well isn’t exactly news,” he wrote. “This has been true of all disasters. The great many were wounded, in one manner or another. It left upon them an ‘invisible scar,’ as Caroline Bird put it.”2 Castle Valley ...
10. America’s Arsenal, 1941–1960
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World War II ushered in another chapter in Castle Valley’s saga of extractive industry. The American military machine needed more and more minerals to fight Nazism, Fascism, and later the Communist threat. Castle Valley had plenty—some known, some forgotten. The transition from a diversified economy—stock-raising, farming, and mining—to almost complete mining domination marked the mid-twentieth century ...
11. The Preservation Instinct, 1960–1980
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In 1938, Roy Cook and his wife had built a store and service station at Woodside, roughly twenty miles northwest of Green River and twenty-five miles southeast of Price. Their backyard geyser gushed forth about every thirty minutes (in those days), and the Cooks charged fifty cents (twenty-five cents for children under twelve) to enter a rock crystal and fluorescent mineral museum, a desert zoo, and to watch the geyser erupt. ...
12. Energy Crisis, 1980–2004
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In 1994, Kent Petersen, Ferron native, Army veteran, and former Utah Power and Light (UP&L) environmental engineer noted, “When I was traveling the world I always knew Emery County was one place the air was still clean. But that was because nobody lived there.”2 He was right. As Castle Valley got sucked into the vortex of international price wars and market fluctuations, the energy industry ...
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Publication Year: 2004